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From the Autumn 2017 newsletter

Chairman’s Report

Welcome to our Autumn Newsletter. Abingdon Fair is nearly upon us and that is a sign that Autumn/Winter will soon be here.  I hope you all enjoyed the summer as well as you could.  The Museum Friends’ summer visits were again excellent and for those members who took part, thank you.  It may be the last time that we organise visits as unfortunately no one from the membership has come forward to take on this role.   Our talks continue and it would be great to see more members attending these monthly evenings.  The talk in September on the Watlington Hoard was excellent.  Please do try to come along - the evening is approximately one and half hours, the subjects are always varied and enjoyable and of course there is always the raffle!  We hope to run the annual Fish and Chip supper early next year.  Details will be sent to you nearer the time.  Please, if you have any ideas for further fund raising please let me know – the Museum will need our support in the coming years when other funding is not available.  The Museum asked us for a contribution, which we provided, towards purchasing a painting of Abingdon.  This will be on display at the museum in the near future.

My good wishes to you all. 

Sue Stevens

Dates and venues for talks 2017/18

All will be held at 19:00 for 19:30 in St.Helen’s Church Centre.

The Autumn talks started in September with a most interesting and entertaining talk by James Mather on metal detecting and the Watlington Hoard.  The series continues with:


Oct. 5th

Dr Hubert Zawadzki – ‘Invasion, Deportation and Survivial: A Polish Woman's Epic Wartime Story 1939-1945'

Nov. 2nd

Ruth Weinberg – 'Uzbekistan: the hub of Central Asia' 

Dec. 7th

Liz Woolley – ‘Leisure and Entertainment in Victorian and Edwardian Oxford'

Feb. 1st 2018

Jackie Smith – ‘The bridges and causeway at Abingdon and Culham'

Mar. 1st

Mark Davies – ‘The Joneses of Jesus: Oxford's Welsh Connections’

April 5th

AGM & Alan Copeland – ‘Curiosities in the Chilterns - part one’



Museum Report 18.9.2017


Our Spring exhibition this year was called Print Diversity, a selection of artwork by Catriona Brodribb.  This was interesting because it showed not only a variety of subjects, but also a variety of print techniques, which I am told is unusual for a print maker, they tend to specialise in one particular type. This exhibition tied in with Artweeks, during which we had a special late night opening for the exhibition.

Our mid-year exhibition, which closed in mid-September, was all about archaeology.  We called it Beneath Our Feet, and it focused on archaeology dug up in Abingdon and what it can tell us about the town's history.  It also had a section about archaeologists and their work. We had an interactive screen on which visitors could explore more of Abingdon's early history, and for a hands-on component we had historic board games to be played in the gallery, and we had new archaeology trails for the children.

As an interim presentation we had a one week exhibition, about the life and work of the writer Dorothy Richardson, who was born in Abingdon and whose family had a grocer's shop on Ock Street.  This exhibition was produced, not by us, but by Adam Guy who is a post-doc at Oxford University working on the Dorothy Richardson Scholarly Editions Project.  He had a grant to produce this exhibition, and we just provided the space and set it up.  There were explanatory panels and books on display.

Now it's all change again, and we will get ready for our last exhibition for 2017, which is about the work of the award-winning animator Geoff Dunbar.  It will feature some of his original sketches and film clips, and there will be a special showing of The Cunning Little Vixen, the opera for which he created an animated film.  This will take place at the Amey Theatre on 1st November - tickets available from the museum!

Events and activities:

Museums at Night was two nights this year, Friday and Saturday.

We had a four-session Learn to Draw workshop, led by artist Kate Hammersley.

A fossil drawing workshop, also with Kate Hammersley.

The Art Weeks open evening which I have already mentioned.

Plus the usual kids activities, which proved to be very popular, especially during the summer holidays.

Upcoming events: As mentioned above there will be a talk about and screening of The Cunning Little Vixen.  There will also be another talk by Gareth Howell, on the Battle of Passchendaele.

And finally: the painting you helped us acquire:

"Early Spring near Abingdon" by Davidson Knowles. c. 1895. Oil on canvas, signed, with a gilt composition Watts style frame.




From the Treasurer


Subscriptions are due from the 1st March 2017.  Please send them direct to the Treasurer.

The rates are – Single £10      Couple/Family £15  Please send your cheque together with the slip below to the Treasurer: Peter Clare, 24 Wootton Road, Abingdon, OX14 1JD.  Email:

(If you wish to pay by Standing Order in future please contact the Treasurer, preferably by email, for a Standing Order form).

On behalf of the Museum and the Friends many thanks for your continued support.


Abingdon Museum Friends

Membership Form 2017/2018

I enclose my/our subscription of £………………….. for 2017/18   

Name …………………………………….…… Address ………………..………………………………………




Tel. …………………………..   E-mail …………………………………………………………………………..



From the archives

Report on BAFM SE(W) Regional Conference from autumn 2015 newsletter

Abingdon Museum Friends hosted this Conference last year and I was very happy to attend the Conference this year when it was held in Reading Museum.  Having made quite a number of visits to Reading for shopping I had missed the opportunity to visit Reading Museum.  The building is a very grand Victorian affair but very beautiful in that unique Victorian way.  The conference was a delight, well organised, lots of information and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  It was very well attended, representatives from a very varied selection of museums within the SE(W) area.  Delegates had elected beforehand which of the talks they would attend and after the initial introductions and history of the building by the Museum manager we formed our groups.  My choice was Young Friends/Kids in Museums: to attract young people into Museums obviously was a challenge for all and even though the ideas were there, there was certain lack of ideas when it came to middle years teenagers and how to engage them in the Museum.  Starting youth panels or organising days in local Museums needs a lot co-operation with local schools.  Members of my group had had various degrees of success but it seemed these were just one-off situations.  I felt that it was very much down to the individual Museum to organise and although the ideas were there implementation would be difficult.  The workshop was interesting and gave food for thought.  The second session I chose was a tour of Reading’s Bayeux Tapestry which was excellent – Ben Bishop, Museum Gallery Assistant - gave a detailed and most enjoyable storyline of the tapestry. 

Much of the talk at the Conference was of ways of keeping Museums friendly, open places. Reading Museum Friends have a coffee morning once a month for their members for a general get together which is an idea that we could take up as the Mousehole is now run by the Museum.  I have promised myself I will return to Reading Museum because there was much more to see and I can recommend it as a place to visit, please do so if you can.

Sue Stevens

Three Visits organised in summer 2015

BMW, Cowley

Thirteen of us visited the BMW plant Cowley.  We had an excellent guided tour by John, who had worked at both the old Cowley works in the good old days and also at the ultra-modern, very efficient works.  Everything is calculated to the minute.  Tea and coffee breaks are exactly 14 minutes long.  Time is money and nothing must halt the production line.  A very interesting afternoon.          

Pam Martin


Print Room of the Department of Western Art

The friends who crowded into the Print Room of the Department of Western Art were treated to most informative and beautiful hour by the curator who displayed a representative selection of the illustrations stored there.  For those of us unable to go on this visit The Ashmolean’s website has most of the collection available online.

Peter Hallowell


Haseley Court Gardens

We were treated to rare treat when we were able to visit this beautiful garden which is not normally open to the public.  The owner, Mrs Fiona Heyward, gave us a short talk about its history: how, after years of neglect, it had been rescued in the 1950s by the famous American interior designer, the late Nancy Lancaster.  She then led us on a conducted tour of the garden enabling us to enjoy its many features including sunken garden with a giant topiary chess set, a walled garden with a mix of roses, perennials, biennials and annuals, a hornbeam tunnel, a potager, a scented white garden, a pink garden and a parterre all within a total area of eight acres.  I hope the photographs give some indication of just how splendid it is.

Peter Hallowell


Events and Talks archive


Concert with Wantage Male Voice Choir April 2013

For our last fund raising effort for the Museum Appeal, the Wantage Male Voice Choir came and gave a concert in the beautiful setting of St. Helen’s Church. With their conductor Cathie and accompanist Lorraine, 25 men sang a range of popular songs, old and new, from the musicals and by much-loved composers, taking full advantage of the great acoustics. There were several solos, some of which were sung, others recited, and the programme was varied in both mood and pace. For the “Song of the Jolly Roger”, formality was thrown to the winds as eye patches, pirate hats and even a parrot were produced. Drinks and good conversation peppered the interval in which the bar dispensed the drinks included in the price of the ticket and members of the Choir mingled with the audience to increase the intimacy of the occasion. There was a very good turnout and the audience enjoyed it all. It was a most successful event, raising just over £700; this will be doubled by the Lottery Fund. An enormous thank you to the Choir and to everyone who came and helped.

Fish and Chip Supper Quiz March 2013

This year’s Quiz took place yet again to a packed house. Lots of new faces in the crowd showed the event has taken off like a rocket and it was a sell-out before the tickets went on general sale. Despite the odd remark that some of the questions were hard (who can’t tell the difference between the feet of a camel and those of a giraffe?), and the Quizmaster getting an answer wrong through overwork (at least that’s her excuse!), there was a great atmosphere helped, no doubt, by many visits to the bar. The fish and chips arrived on time this year, although the designated collectors couldn’t find the van and were rushing round the area desperately trying to locate it, and were delicious. Many thanks to all those who contributed to the raffle, both with prizes and with ticket purchases, and to our anonymous donor who gave the prizes for everyone on the winning table. This year the losers each received a small Easter egg, but the battle was close fought and everyone did well. We raised over £300 and this will be matched by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Well worth the effort and a big “thank you” to the Friends’ Committee who worked so hard to make this a great evening.

Open Gardens June 2012

For the third time in 2 years, our Saturday Open Gardens event took place in dry weather, certainly almost miraculous this year. With 3 gardens to relax in and enjoy in East St. Helen Street, many people took advantage and came to admire the splendid array of colour and the luxurious lawns that the gardens offered. The roses, particularly, seemed to have flourished in the wet and cool conditions and their wonderful displays were remarked upon and photographed with great enthusiasm. St Ethelwold’s offered us the Garden Room to provide a place to have refreshments, and many visitors took their delicious cakes out into the fresh air and enjoyed the river views. The event made £550 which will be doubled by the Heritage Lottery Fund. So a worthwhile effort from the gardeners, who battled against all the odds to get their colourful havens looking so beautiful in time for the day. And who also sat at the door and explained to everyone how they manage the plantings. Susie Howard’s ability to keep her plants from being eaten by slugs was a cause of wonder, as she uses only organic and natural repellants. Take note – we do not need to use harsh methods to have a wonderful display. A huge thank you to everyone involved – Mr and Mrs Higham, Mr and Mrs Howard, St. Ethelwolds and all the volunteers who sat at the gates, donated cake, made tea and washed up the million cups and plates. See you next year?

There is a special message from Julie Mayhew-Archer, the Councillor who has represented the Museum for many years, She says Can I congratulate and thank everyone who helped with this very successful event, particularly the kind homeowners who opened their gardens. They were picture perfect. It raised almost as much money as last year and was much appreciated

Cheese and Wine Party May 2012

Choosing the first fine evening in the month, Fredericka Smith and John Elston hosted a wonderful cheese and wine party to help raise funds for Abingdon County Hall Museum. It was attended by almost 100 people, not just Museum Friends but personal friends and neighbours of the hosts and other interested parties. As the wine flowed freely and everyone tackled the huge range of cheeses on offer, so many that they needed two tables in two rooms to hold it all, the marvellous atmosphere encouraged everyone to donate most generously. This was greatly capitalised on by the extra help drafted in, in the form of the family offspring and their friends, especially for the raffle, which alone made several hundred pounds. The raffle prizes were enticing, with a brand-new vacuum cleaner, a glider flight, a photographic session, a handmade cot quilt and a beautiful oil painting of a heron (donated by Charlotte Elston) amongst the goodies. The event raised just under £1500, the single largest amount raised in one effort. Huge thanks are due to Fredericka and all her family – for opening their lovely house, for donating all the victuals, for attending so well to the parking arrangements, for moving much furniture and for ensuring that the weather was so good. And to everyone who donated so generously, some of whom couldn’t actually come in person. A very big vote of thanks is given to Miele Abingdon, Windrushers Gliding Club, Faulkener Photographers and to everyone who gave a prize towards the raffle. A triple gold star effort.


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